Every Child in School – Part II

It’s mango season. I know what you’re thinking – something to cross off the bucket list, right? Mango season in India, for God’s sake. It has been nothing short of the best fruit season of my life. I start and end my day with two mangoes – I’ve been living the dream. I even have my own mango vendor. His stall is right next to my apartment building and I now refuse to buy mangoes from anyone else. There was one day, though that I realized that before mango season began, I hadn’t seen my vendor’s stall setup. In fact, after I thought about it, I wondered where he would go, if anywhere, once the season ends. Where does he go for the rest of the 9 months of the year? How far does he have to travel for mango season? Where does he stay here? What about the farmers who, like my mango vendor, must be seasonal? Under what conditions do they work?

What if any of these workers have kids?

That question was a game-changer. And also one that fell right in line with the work that is being done at Educo. While I don’t know the answers to my questions as they pertain to my mango vendor (we never actually became friends), I did happen to learn through Educo that many families, with children in tow, migrate seasonally depending on available work. Often times, the migrations that occur are so drastic that the repercussions are vast – especially when it comes to children. The question posed during much of my research at Educo was: ‘What happens when a child migrates seasonally?’ They often cannot get an uninterrupted education. Simple. When there are approximately 72 million people who migrate (LAMP), often times with their families, in India every year in pursuit of work, the issue of education access becomes an incredible threat to the every aspect of progression and livelihood prospects on a national and individualistic level.

In convenient sync with mango season, and my slew of questions, came an independent research project that I continue to work on at Educo. The project explores the issue of providing education for children of mobile workers and the challenges that come with it.

Here are some highlights:

Mobile workers: construction workers, nomadic communities, agricultural workers, etc.

The problem: When there are mobile/migrant workers with children, it becomes very difficult for those children to receive a steady, consistent education because of the fact that they are continuously moving from location to location. When education is not provided to these children, breaking the harsh cycle of participating in migrant work becomes nearly impossible. According to UN India, 52% of seasonal/short-duration out-migrants are either illiterate or haven’t completed primary education (Decent Work For Migrant Workers in India). There have been several solutions that have been tried around the world, though because of the nature of this predicament, it has proven to be extremely difficult to come up with a sustainable and viable fix. When attempting to solve this problem, many problems come up with educating the children of mobile workers.

Some of these problems include:

Language is in incredibly influential and important part of migration and education. It especially becomes an issue when children are migrating with their parents all around the country, and are not being exposed to the same language at each school they go to. The question of, “how can a consistent education be provided to children who constantly move from location-to-location when the geographical differences are inherent to drastic language differences? (Meeting the Educational Needs of Migrant Students)”

Infrastructure also becomes a huge issue when attempting to have schools present when there are children who are constantly moving. It becomes nearly impossible to have schools wherever there are children. Especially when that population of children move to places with very few resources and away from urbanization (Meeting the Educational Needs of Migrant Students).

Some solutions to this incredibly pressing problem have been suggested and attempted in India as well as in other countries around the world.

One of these solutions have included the introduction of mobile schools. One Belgian organisation, called Mobile School, has been introduced in 20 different countries around the world (Mobile School). The schools are essentially carts on wheels, equipped with almost everything that is needed in a classroom. Everything about the features and design of the school is meant to be mobile and adaptable to various environments. The school has educational games, whose software can be installed and access anywhere – and a moving blackboard. The nature of the mobile school is such that it can be put together and torn down anywhere and very easily. The school is fully weather resistant and theft-resistant, as all of the features are attached to the contraption (Ibid). An initiative similar to this was introduced by Butterflies India NGO in Delhi and Uttarakhand (Mobile Education).

According to ICT Post, a project called the Radiophone Project has been created to address education for migrant workers in India (Education of migrant children in India). This project uses material from Sesame Workshop India Trust Galli Galli Sim Sim, the television series and now the radio series, and brings it to 40 government primary schools in Gurgaon. This is done via internet streaming which is accessed on teachers’ smartphones. Teachers have been given Micromax A-70 Android smartphones that allow them to access the contents of the program. The program has extended to 8 other regions in North India, across 5 different states (Ibid).

In the USA, There is one school, called the San Jose School (La Escuela De San Jose) that was established to address the issue of educating children of migrant workers (Green). Because the main issue with educating this demographic of children, the school works with the mobility of these families. The school moves with its students and families as they travel between Ohio and Florida, where there is relatively stable rates of migration. The school prevents children from missing school and the schools are taught in English, though there is some explanation that is done in Spanish. There are also features of this program that work one-on-one with children (Ibid).

While all of the above organisations presented extremely innovative solutions to educating the children of migrant workers, I found that the most effective solution was present in Shanghai, China, where the government intervened and eventually made it so that education is almost 100% guaranteed for children of primary school age in Shanghai (Stepping Stones).  

According to government statistics in China, Shanghai hosts nearly 500,000 migrants children ages between 1st standard to 3rd standard (Stepping Stones).  Many of these children attend one of the 145 schools that are funded and organised by the Chinese government specifically for children of migrant workers. While this program began as a very disorganized and counterproductive solution to the issue of educating migrant children, where classes were overcrowded, facilities were rundown, infrastructure was poor, and there were many closures, the program has greatly improved (Ibid).

Suffice it to say, that when a family migrates, the implications can be quite complex, with even more complicated solutions in place. While these solutions are wonderful efforts to help address this global issue, there doesn’t seem to be a one-for-all fix. But attention to this issue on a high level seems to be step one in alleviating it altogether.

References:

Decent Work For Migrant Workers in India, United Nations in India, http://in.one.un.org/page/decent-work-for-migrant-workers-in-india/

Mobile School, https://www.mobileschool.org/en/about-us

Mobile Education, http://www.butterflieschildrights.org/program.php?title=Mobile+Education&id=7

Green, E. Paul, University of California, The Undocumented: Educating the Children of Migrant Workers in America, 2003, http://ks-idr.org/resources/ems/educating_children_migrant.pdf

Meeting the Educational Needs of Migrant Students, Education World, http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr347.shtml

Stepping Stones, http://steppingstoneschina.net/shanghai-volunteer-english-teaching-program/about-migrant-schools

Improving Education of migrant children in India, http://ictpost.com/improving-education-of-migrant-workers-children-in-india/

Although being an Indian-American, Nisha has never been to India like her parents did and now is excited to integrate into the Indian culture and make it a strong part of her identity. She is passionate about health and education and is looking forward to working in the same field through AIF and her host organization. Through this fellowship, she wants to learn about the issues from the people who are living through them and wants to gain a deep understanding of them. Prior to AIF, she was living and working in Peru and Tanzania, an experience she things that would help her in this fellowship.

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